Bruno Pagano

Researcher of Medicinal Chemistry

Name Bruno
Surname Pagano
Institution University of Naples – Federico II
Address Department of Pharmacy, University of Naples "Federico II", Via D. Montesano 49, 80131, Naples, Italy
Bruno Pagano


  • Structure and stability insights into tumour suppressor p53 evolutionary related proteins.

    Publication Date: 04/10/2013 on PloS one
    by Pagano B, Jama A, Martinez P, Akanho E, Bui TT, Drake AF, Fraternali F, Nikolova PV
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076014

    The p53 family of genes and their protein products, namely, p53, p63 and p73, have over one billion years of evolutionary history. Advances in computational biology and genomics are enabling studies of the complexities of the molecular evolution of p53 protein family to decipher the underpinnings of key biological conditions spanning from cancer through to various metabolic and developmental disorders and facilitate the design of personalised medicines. However, a complete understanding of the inherent nature of the thermodynamic and structural stability of the p53 protein family is still lacking. This is due, to a degree, to the lack of comprehensive structural information for a large number of homologous proteins and to an incomplete knowledge of the intrinsic factors responsible for their stability and how these might influence function. Here we investigate the thermal stability, secondary structure and folding properties of the DNA-binding domains (DBDs) of a range of proteins from the p53 family using biophysical methods. While the N- and the C-terminal domains of the p53 family show sequence diversity and are normally targets for post-translational modifications and alternative splicing, the central DBD is highly conserved. Together with data obtained from Molecular Dynamics simulations in solution and with structure based homology modelling, our results provide further insights into the molecular properties of evolutionary related p53 proteins. We identify some marked structural differences within the p53 family, which could account for the divergence in biological functions as well as the subtleties manifested in the oligomerization properties of this family.

  • Use of NMR in profiling of cocaine seizures.

    Publication Date: 10/09/2013 on Forensic science international
    by Pagano B, Lauri I, De Tito S, Persico G, Chini MG, Malmendal A, Novellino E, Randazzo A
    DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2013.04.028

    Cocaine is the most widely used illicit drug, and its origin is always the focus of intense investigation aimed at identifying the trafficking routes. Since NMR represents a unique methodology for performing chemical identification and quantification, here it is proposed a strategy based on (1)H NMR spectral analysis in conjunction with multivariate analysis to identify the chemical "fingerprint" of cocaine samples, and to link cocaine samples based on this information. The most relevant spectral regions containing the fingerprint have been identified: δH 0.86-0.96, 1.50-1.56, 5.90-5.93, 6.48-6.52, 7.31-7.34, 7.61-7.63, 7.68-7.72 ppm. The strategy has been applied on samples seized in different times and places in Naples (Italy). The chemical "fingerprint" depend on what plant they were extracted from, where it was cultivated, and which procedures were used for extraction and purification, thus adding significant information in the process toward identification of the trafficking routes for this drug.

  • The G-triplex DNA.

    Publication Date: 18/02/2013 on Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)
    by Limongelli V, De Tito S, Cerofolini L, Fragai M, Pagano B, Trotta R, Cosconati S, Marinelli L, Novellino E, Bertini I, Randazzo A, Luchinat C, Parrinello M
    DOI: 10.1002/anie.201206522
  • Cross-talk between prion protein and quadruplex-forming nucleic acids: a dynamic complex formation.

    Publication Date: 07/01/2013 on Nucleic acids research
    by Cavaliere P, Pagano B, Granata V, Prigent S, Rezaei H, Giancola C, Zagari A
    DOI: 10.1093/nar/gks970

    Prion protein (PrP) is involved in lethal neurodegenerative diseases, and many issues remain unclear about its physio-pathological role. Quadruplex-forming nucleic acids (NAs) have been found to specifically bind to both PrP cellular and pathological isoforms. To clarify the relevance of these interactions, thermodynamic, kinetic and structural studies have been performed, using isothermal titration calorimetry, surface plasmon resonance and circular dichroism methodologies. Three quadruplex-forming sequences, d(TGGGGT), r(GGAGGAGGAGGA), d(GGAGGAGGAGGA), and various forms of PrP were selected for this study. Our results showed that these quadruplexes exhibit a high affinity and specificity toward PrP, with K(D) values within the range 62÷630 nM, and a weaker affinity toward a PrP-β oligomer, which mimics the pathological isoform. We demonstrated that the NA quadruplex architecture is the structural determinant for the recognition by both PrP isoforms. Furthermore, we spotted both PrP N-terminal and C-terminal domains as the binding regions involved in the interaction with DNA/RNAs, using several PrP truncated forms. Interestingly, a reciprocally induced structure loss was observed upon PrP-NA interaction. Our results allowed to surmise a quadruplex unwinding-activity of PrP, that may have a feedback in vivo.

  • Energetics of ligand binding to G-quadruplexes.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2013 on Topics in current chemistry
    by Giancola C, Pagano B
    DOI: 10.1007/128_2012_347

    G-quadruplex ligands are potential anticancer agents as telomerase inhibitors and potential transcriptional regulators of oncogenes. The search for best-in-class drugs is addressed to identify small molecules able to promote and stabilize G-quadruplex structures. What features should the G-quadruplex ligands possess? They should have selective antiproliferative effects on cancer cells and induce telomerase inhibition or oncogene suppression. One of the main challenges in their design and synthesis is to make the ligands selective for G-quadruplex DNA. These features should be amplified by careful analyses of physico-chemical aspects of G-quadruplex-drug interactions. In particular, the study of the energetics of G-quadruplex-drug interactions can enhance drug design by providing thermodynamic parameters that give quantitative information on the biomolecular interactions important for binding. The main methodologies used to gain information on energetics of binding are based on spectroscopic or calorimetric principles. Spectroscopic techniques such as fluorescence and circular dichroism are rapid and cheap methods, but are not sufficient to characterize completely the thermodynamics of interaction. Calorimetric techniques such as isothermal titration calorimetry offer a direct measure of binding enthalpy, in addition to the stoichiometry and affinity constants. With the complete thermodynamic signature of drug-target interaction, dissecting the enthalpic and entropic components of binding is possible, which can be a useful aid to decision-making during drug optimization.

  • Shooting for selective druglike G-quadruplex binders: evidence for telomeric DNA damage and tumor cell death.

    Publication Date: 26/11/2012 on Journal of medicinal chemistry
    by Cosconati S, Rizzo A, Trotta R, Pagano B, Iachettini S, De Tito S, Lauri I, Fotticchia I, Giustiniano M, Marinelli L, Giancola C, Novellino E, Biroccio A, Randazzo A
    DOI: 10.1021/jm301019w

    Targeting of DNA secondary structures, such as G-quadruplexes, is now considered an appealing opportunity for drug intervention in anticancer therapy. So far, efforts made in the discovery of chemotypes able to target G-quadruplexes mainly succeeded in the identification of a number of polyaromatic compounds featuring end-stacking binding properties. Against this general trend, we were persuaded that the G-quadruplex grooves can recognize molecular entities with better drug-like and selectivity properties. From this idea, a set of small molecules was identified and the structural features responsible for G-quadruplex recognition were delineated. These compounds were demonstrated to have enhanced affinity and selectivity for the G-quadruplex over the duplex structure. Their ability to induce selective DNA damage at telomeric level and to induction of apoptosis and senescence on tumor cells is herein experimentally proven.

  • Studying the effect of crowding and dehydration on DNA G-quadruplexes.

    Publication Date: 01/05/2012 on Methods (San Diego, Calif.)
    by Petraccone L, Pagano B, Giancola C
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2012.02.011

    Intracellular environment is crowded with biomolecules that occupy a significant fraction (up to 40%) of the cellular volume, with a total concentration in the range 300-400mg/ml. Recently, the effect of crowding/dehydrating agents on the DNA G-quadruplexes has become a subject of an increasing interest. Crowding and/or dehydrating agents have been used to simulate how G-quadruplexes behave under cell-mimicking conditions characterized by a large excluded volume and a lower water activity. Indeed, the presence of both steric crowding and a lower water activity can affect G-quadruplex stability, their folding/unfolding kinetics, as well as their binding processes with proteins or small ligands. Many of these effects can be explored experimentally by measuring the dependence of the conformational stability, isomerisation kinetics and equilibria on the concentration of cosolutes which do not interact with the molecules (G-quadruplexes) under investigation. Spectroscopic methodologies, like circular dichroism, UV and fluorescence, have been widely employed to study G-quadruplexes in dilute solution. Here we focus on some aspects that need to be taken into account when employing such techniques in the presence of large amount of a cosolute. Additionally, we discuss possible problems/artifacts that arise in setting experiments in presence of these commonly employed cosolutes and in interpreting the results.

  • State-of-the-art methodologies for the discovery and characterization of DNA G-quadruplex binders.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2012 on Current pharmaceutical design
    by Pagano B, Cosconati S, Gabelica V, Petraccone L, De Tito S, Marinelli L, La Pietra V, di Leva FS, Lauri I, Trotta R, Novellino E, Giancola C, Randazzo A

    Nowadays, the molecular basis of interaction between low molecular weight compounds and biological macromolecules is the subject of numerous investigations aimed at the rational design of molecules with specific therapeutic applications. In the last decades, it has been demonstrated that DNA quadruplexes play a critical role in several biological processes both at telomeric and gene promoting levels thus providing a great stride in the discovery of ligands able to interact with such a biologically relevant DNA conformation. So far, a number of experimental and computational approaches have been successfully employed in order to identify new ligands and to characterize their binding to the DNA. The main focus of this review is the description of these methodologies, placing a particular emphasis on computational methods, isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), mass spectrometry (MS), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), circular dichroism (CD) and fluorescence spectroscopies.

  • Design, synthesis, biophysical and biological studies of trisubstituted naphthalimides as G-quadruplex ligands.

    Publication Date: 01/11/2011 on Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry
    by Peduto A, Pagano B, Petronzi C, Massa A, Esposito V, Virgilio A, Paduano F, Trapasso F, Fiorito F, Florio S, Giancola C, Galeone A, Filosa R
    DOI: 10.1016/j.bmc.2011.08.062

    A series of trisubstituted naphthalimides have been synthesized and evaluated as telomeric G-quadruplex ligands by biophysical methods. Affinity for telomeric G-quadruplex AGGG(TTAGGG)(3) binding was first screened by fluorescence titrations. Subsequently, the interaction of the telomeric G-quadruplex with compounds showing the best affinity has been studied by isothermal titration calorimetry and UV-melting experiments. The two best compounds of the series tightly bind the telomeric quadruplex with a 2:1 drug/DNA stoichiometry. These derivatives have been further evaluated for their ability to inhibit telomerase by a TRAP assay and their pharmacological properties by treating melanoma (M14) and human lung cancer (A549) cell lines with increasing drug concentrations. A dose-dependent inhibition of cell proliferation was observed for all cellular lines during short-term treatment.

  • The triazatruxene derivative azatrux binds to the parallel form of the human telomeric G-quadruplex under molecular crowding conditions: biophysical and molecular modeling studies.

    Publication Date: 01/08/2011 on Biochimie
    by Petraccone L, Fotticchia I, Cummaro A, Pagano B, Ginnari-Satriani L, Haider S, Randazzo A, Novellino E, Neidle S, Giancola C
    DOI: 10.1016/j.biochi.2011.05.017

    The present study has employed a combination of spectroscopic, calorimetric and computational methods to explore the binding of the three side-chained triazatruxene derivative, termed azatrux, to a human telomeric G-quadruplex sequence, under conditions of molecular crowding. The binding of azatrux to the tetramolecular parallel [d(TGGGGT)](4) quadruplex in the presence and absence of crowding conditions, was also characterized. The data indicate that azatrux binds in an end-stacking mode to the parallel G-quadruplex scaffold and highlights the key structural elements involved in the binding. The selectivity of azatrux for the human telomeric G-quadruplex relative to another biologically relevant G-quadruplex (c-Kit87up) and to duplex DNA was also investigated under molecular crowding conditions, showing that azatrux has good selectivity for the human telomeric G-quadruplex over the other investigated DNA structures.